Politics makes for strange bedfellows, but it creates even more interesting enemies. The press loves to talk about the power struggles which seem to constantly rage inside the GOP, where conservatives battle it out with the party establishment, but the picture they paint of the Democrat sides of the aisle generally looks like a peaceful circle of friends doing trust falls while they sing Kumbaya. Now that the D team is on the outs, though, there is a fight brewing. ABC News chose to highlight this as one of their stories to watch in the coming weeks.
When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced he will retire at the end of 2016, he endorsed Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York to succeed him as party leader. Reid’s action confirmed that Schumer, a top fundraiser and hard-charging partisan tactician, had outmaneuvered Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in their long-running competition for the top post.
More surprising, however, was their public dispute over whether Schumer had promised to support Durbin’s bid to keep his second-ranking job, as party whip. Some think Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state will vie for the post, threatening to leave Durbin on the sidelines.
This has been brewing for a while now and was really only brought to a head when Reid announced he had his remaining good eye on the exit. The speculation over his reasons will continue for good reason, but it’s a safe bet that one of the most compelling ones is that it’s just not all that much fun to be in the minority. The power play by Chuck Schumer for the number one spot wasn’t totally unexpected, but the scramble for the Whip position promises to offer some excitement. As Politico noted last month, both Durbin and Murray will publicly tell anyone who asks that they are the closest of friends, but friendships have been sundered over less than this. Murray currently holds the number four position as caucus secretary, but there are more than a few players – particularly in the Ready for Hillary camp – who want to see more women in the top positions and are pushing her to take the number two slot. This would be seen as a more solid female presence than the essentially made up position they created specifically for Elizabeth Warren to keep her supporters happy.
Don’t expect Durbin to quietly into that good night. He’s been in the Senate for almost twenty years now and has always played by the old school rules which reward seniority and the loyalty of good party warriors. He waited for more than seventeen years to get the Whip position and had every reason to believe that he was next in line for the top spot upon Reid’s departure until Schumer made his play. He may be friends with Patty Murray, (who has considerable seniority herself) but it’s got to chafe his boxers a bit to see someone who hasn’t put in the same type of work in party leadership jumping the line just to meet some quota based on demographics.
Yes, it’s just one of the smaller side shows which take place in Washington, but at least it’s the other side setting up a circular firing squad this time. Break out the popcorn. This might get good.